Brampton radioactive plant an important election topic

With another plant fire, activists build basis for a stronger lobby

Smoke blocked the Brampton sunrise on Sept. 7 as a fire broke out at an industrial plant storing radioactive material.

A local group said this fire, one of three in the past year, is one reason the group opposes the company’s activities and plans to lobby the city for support in the upcoming elections.

Ed Schmeler, treasurer of the group, said the coming November election means politicians may more likely take action.

“Now that it is election time, we are going to all of the incumbents and candidates and asking them to sign a pledge that they will continue to oppose the company being here,”

Schmeleris a member of People Against Radioactive Contamination (PARC), which aims for a nuclear-free Peel region. The group has protested against the company, Mississauga Metal and Alloys Inc., because it stores radioactive material and has voiced plans to create a nuclear incinerator. But with its licence expiring [-se for verb, -ce for noun] at the end of September and the upcoming election, the group feels it has much more political leverage and will use it to its advantage.

Election incumbents and city council have supported PARC’s position, but group spokesperson Dora Jeffries said she cannot be fully satisfied until the company puts an end to nuclear incineration plans and stops bringing metals from all over the world to Brampton to recycle.

Health hazards

Jeffries said the company argues only high levels of radiation are hazardous, but she said there are studies to indicate all levels of radiation are dangerous and pose a growing risk of cancer and other health hazards to people.

But Bill Sharkey, environment and health safety officer at the company, said the radioactive material at the plant is not even detectable and poses no risk to the community.

“This is a family business — the father, son, wife, daughter, brother, all work here. If it wasn’t safe, he wouldn’t have his family here,” he said. “I don’t think these activists are grounded in good science. They are for the most part lay people.”

Sharkey said the company has decided to revoke its application for a nuclear incinerator since there were “too many regulatory hurdles to tackle.” “That is great news,” PARC’s Jeffries said, “but they still have radioactive material in their facility that remains an issue.”

Political support

Garnett Manning, the city councilor for the area where the plant is located —at Sun Pac Blvd. and Williams Parkway E. —supports the group’s cause.

“If it was up to me, I wouldn’t allow them to be anywhere near the city of Brampton because I don’t believe that with their behavior, they are capable of doing something safe,” he said.

The group and city council have requested a public hearing in Brampton from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), a federal agency that certifies all the nuclear incinerator plant licenses and oversees their safety.

Aurele Gervais, the media relations officer at the CNSC, said this request would soon be fulfilled.

“The CNSC is planning on organizing a public information session in the near future. But we assure the community that the radioactive material on site is not hazardous,” he said.

“That is very good,” Jeffries said, “because we would be happy to debate the company and hold them accountable to the community.”

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Posted: Sep 7 2006 12:00 pm
Filed under: News